Observing World AIDS Day, officials in China on Tuesday warned that the epidemic is now spread mainly through sex, and that disease-related stigma is not helping matters. "The AIDS epidemic has already spread from high-risk groups to ordinary people," the health ministry said. "AIDS is affecting more and more people and the transmission is becoming more diverse."
"Sexual transmission continues to be the main channel of transmission, with the spread of homosexual transmission clearly increasing," the ministry said. "This is a new situation that we need to pay attention to."
The ministry estimates up to 740,000 Chinese have HIV, and 319,877 infections have been officially recorded, including 48,000 new cases this year through October. The ministry called for increased educational efforts promoting safer sex and condom use.
At a Beijing awareness event, President Hu Jintao urged his country not to discriminate against people living with HIV. "[You] must care more and better for AIDS patients and people living with HIV, and in particular guide society into not discriminating against them," Hu said.
"We welcome the positive attitude of Chinese leaders on the fight against AIDS," said Wan Yanhai, a prominent activist and director of the AIDS Action Project. "But we would like to see the government open up to all non-government organizations as our activities are still being restricted, we are unable to raise funds from inside China, and we are still subject to [police] surveillance."
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